• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Cancer

Cancer is the rapid growth of abnormal cells in parts of the body. These abnormal cells are called malignant cells, cancer cells, or tumour cells.

Cancer cells can penetrate normal body tissues. Several cancers and the abnormal cells that form the cancer tissue are determined by the name of the tissue that the abnormal cells originated from.

Cancer is not bound to humans; other living organisms like animals can also get cancer.

Usually, cancer cells break away from the original group of cells, move through the lymph and blood systems, and stay in other organs where they can again repeat the rapid growth cycle.

This process of malignant cells abandoning an area and growing in another body area is called metastatic spread or metastasis.

Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer depend on factors like the type of cancer, location, and where the cancer cells might have spread.

Some cancer patients show no signs or symptoms until the cancer is far advanced.

The American Cancer Society describes seven warning signs to identify cancer in a body, and which should hint a person to seek medical attention.

The word CAUTION can help you remember these.

· Change in bladder or bowel habits

· A sore throat that doesn’t heal

· Unusual discharge or bleeding

· Thickening or lump in areas like the breast, testicles

· Difficulty swallowing and indigestion (usually chronic)

· A noticeable change in the colour, size, shape, or thickness of a mole

· Hoarseness or nagging cough

Other symptoms that may also alert you or your doctor to the possibility of you having cancer include:

· Unexplained loss of appetite or weight

· Pain in the bones or other parts of the body that may worsen

· Persistent nausea, fatigue, or vomiting

· Unexplained fevers with may be persistent

· Persistent infections which will not clear with usual treatment

Anyone with these symptoms should consult their doctor. However, these symptoms can also appear due to noncancerous conditions.

Types of Cancer

There are more than 150 types of cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute lists several general categories. They include:

Spinal Cord Cancer

Primary spinal cancer grows from cells within the spinal cord or its surrounding parts (the tissues, bones, nerves or fluid of the spine).

The spinal cord is a part of the central nervous system (CNS). It is a column of nerve tissue that starts from the base of the brain down the back.

It is enclosed by a few protective membranes and is surrounded by the vertebrae. The spinal cord transfers crucial messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Heart Cancer

Primary heart tumours and abnormal cell growth in your heart and are very rare. Based on the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) study, they found in less than 1 out of every 2000 bodies.

Primary heart tumours can be either cancerous or noncancerous. Cancerous tumours grow into nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body, but noncancerous tumours don’t.

Caption: Smoking has an adverse effect on the heart Credits: Pixabay

Most primary heart tumours are noncancerous. The ESC reports that only 25 per cent are malignant.

Terminal Cancer

Terminal cancer is a type of cancer that can’t be treated or cured. It’s also called end-stage cancer. Several types of cancer can become terminal cancer.

However, terminal cancer is different from advanced cancer. Advanced cancer isn’t curable. However, it does respond to treatment, which can slow down its progression.

Terminal cancer doesn’t respond to treatment. So, tending to someone with terminal cancer is the best solution.

Tonsil Cancer

Tonsil cancer is a form of oropharyngeal cancer. It affects the mouth and throat.

Tonsil cancer begins when tumour cells form in the tonsils. It can develop in people who have had their tonsils removed because some tonsil tissue often remains after surgery.

Smoking, drinking alcohol, and having Human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk.

Intestinal Cancer

Intestinal cancer begins when tumour cells form in the small intestine.

When cancer cells develop in the large intestine (the large colon), it is known as colorectal cancer.

Tumours in the small intestine can block the flow of food and thus affects digestion. As the tumour gets bigger, the blockages can lead to pain in the abdomen.

Breast Cancer

Caption: The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Credits: Pixabay

Breast cancer forms in either the ducts or the lobules of the breast. Lobules are the glands that generate milk, and ducts are the pathways that transfer the milk from the glands to the nipple.

Cancer can also occur in the fibrous connective tissue or the fatty tissue within a breast. The uncontrolled cancer cells often penetrate other healthy breast tissues and can also travel to the lymph nodes below the arms.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Indian women and accounts for 26% of all cancers in women. Approximately 1 in 28 women are likely to get breast cancer during their lifetime.

Peritoneal Cancer

Peritoneal cancer is a rare type of cancer. It forms in the thin layer of epithelial cells that are present in the inner wall of the abdomen. This layer is called the peritoneum.

The peritoneum covers and protects the organs in your abdomen, like the bladder, intestines, uterus and rectum.

The peritoneum also creates a lubricating fluid that facilitates the organs to move easily inside the abdomen. As its symptoms most often go undetected, peritoneal cancer is usually diagnosed at a late stage.

Bone Cancer

Bone cancer forms when an abnormal mass of tissue or tumour forms in a bone. A tumour can be malignant, which means it may grow aggressively and spread to other parts of the body.

A malignant tumour is often cited as cancerous. Bone cancer is rare.

Bone cancer treatment depends on your age, your overall health, the stage of cancer, the size and location of the tumour.

Cancer Blood Tests

Cancer blood tests and other laboratory tests can help diagnose cancer.

Caption: Blood tests can give clues about what’s going on inside your body. Credits: Pixabay

Examples of blood tests include:

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

This common blood test checks the number of various types of blood cells in a sample of your blood.

Blood cancers can be detected using this test if too few or too many a type of blood cell or abnormal cells are found. A bone marrow biopsy can help confirm blood cancer.

Blood Protein Testing

Electrophoresis, a test to determine various proteins in your blood can help in detecting certain abnormal immune system proteins that are sometimes found in people with multiple myeloma.

Other tests, like a bone marrow biopsy, are used to further confirm a diagnosis.

Tumour Marker Tests

Tumour markers are chemicals generated by cancer cells that can be found in your blood.

Cancer Treatment

Breakthroughs in research have fueled the development of new medications and treatment options.

Treatments are usually based on the type of cancer, the diagnosis stage, and the person’s overall health.

Examples of cancer treatment include:

  1. Chemotherapy can kill cancerous cells with medications that target rapidly forming cells. The drugs can also help reduce tumours, however, the side effects can be severe.

  2. Hormone therapy involves taking medications that alter how specific hormones work or interfere with the body’s ability to create them.

When hormones play an important role, as with breast and prostate cancers, this is a typical approach.

  1. Immunotherapy uses medications to strengthen the immune system and boost it to fight cancerous cells.

Examples of these treatments include adoptive cell transfer and checkpoint inhibitors.

  1. Radiation therapy employs high-dose radiation to eliminate cancerous cells. Radiation can shrink a tumour before surgery or reduce the related symptoms.

Stem cell transplant is beneficial for people with blood-related cancers, like lymphoma or leukaemia.

Caption: Stem cell transplants are commonly used to treat lymphoma and leukemia. Credits: Pixabay

It involves removing white and red blood cells that survived radiation or chemotherapy.

These cells are then strengthened and put back into the body.

  1. Surgery is usually a part of treatment when a person has a cancerous tumour. It involves removing the lymph nodes to prevent or reduce the disease’s spread.

  2. Specific therapies execute functions within cancerous cells to prevent them from dividing. They can also strengthen the immune system.

Examples of these therapies include monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule drugs.

Indian Cancer Society

Indian Cancer Society (ICS) is a non-profit, non-government, national organization for detection, awareness, and providing treatment for cancer patients in India.

It is linked with Tata Memorial Hospital, which is one of the best cancer hospitals in India providing treatment and rehabilitation programs for cancer patients.

They also perform research and publish data on types of cancer patients in India.

Many noted personalities, charitable and corporate trust like Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, and A. H. Wadia Trust are linked with the organization to fund its activities.

Conclusion

Lifestyle choices and genetic factors, like smoking, may contribute to the development of cancer. Multiple factors affect the ways that DNA communicates with cells and controls their division and death.

Cancer treatments are rapidly improving. Also, enhancements in cancer detection, increased awareness of the risks of smoking, and a decrease in tobacco use have all contributed to a decrease in the number of cancer diagnoses and deaths.

When an individual has cancer, the outlook depends on whether the disease has spread and also on its type, location and severity.

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